CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
HCS Members’ Update
Thank you to everyone who has renewed their annual HCS membership for 2021. We will maintain our efforts on your behalf to promote and enhance the heritage, vitality and regeneration of the town over the next 12 months.
7.00pm Tuesday 30 March: Huddersfield Civic Society AGM.
You will have received papers for the AGM in the past week. I hope you will be able to join us – the meeting should not take more than an hour. Here are the details for logging in to the virtual meeting:
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Access it by clicking here.
7.00pm Tuesday 20 April: New Manchester Buildings – the good, the average, the ugly. A zoom tour with Jonathan Schofield.
Almost 100 people logged on for the truly inspiring presentation by Nathan Cornish from Urban Splash for our joint annual lecture with the University of Huddersfield.
Our zoom ‘tour’, led by one of Manchester’s most successful guides, will be a fitting complement to this, providing a chance to see and the good and not so good developments that are rapidly transforming the dynamic centre of the city.
Booking details to follow.
Two planning matters have dominated our discussions and highlighted a number of serious concerns over the past few weeks:
Castle Hill Restaurant with Rooms and Event Venue
HCS Committee Secretary, Martin Kilburn has been relentless in pursuing the HCS request for the application to be called in by the Secretary of State following Kirklees Council’s approval of the application, as reported in previous updates.
Incredibly, as a result of numerous emails and Freedom of Information requests Martin received a message from Historic England’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the NE and Yorkshire at the end of February stating: “We have not been officially informed that the application was referred to MCHLG and we have had no contact from their case work staff.”
Further pressure has, at last, resulted in this response from the case officer from the MCHLG: “I have taken over this planning case from my colleague Chris Bazley-Rose and note your email to Martin Kilburn regarding the above application. I confirm that MHCLG are still considering this case and would welcome your comments regarding the proposal.”
Martin’s request for call-in on behalf of HCS, was submitted in early November 2020 - that’s over 4 months ago. It was just last week the case officer contacted Historic England whose responsibility it is to ensure the protection of such monuments!
Former Kirklees College Site
Equally worrying was the decision by Kirklees Strategic Planning Committee to approve proposals on the former Kirklees College site. Watching the debate, I was very concerned at the way officers recommended approval, emphasising the difficulties the Asset Management Company, who own the site, had in making the development viable and the overall ‘public benefit’ gained from approving the scheme.
Let’s be clear, the site is an eyesore and the listed buildings including the 2* former Infirmary have been left deteriorating and subject to vandalism. Looking at the approval, the most likely part to be developed is the Lidl supermarket, described by one councillor as ‘looking like a cowshed’.
What is, perhaps, most disturbing is that the officer’s report actually states: “As a result, no funds have been allocated to undertake the conversion works other than to make the building wind and water-tight.”
This means there is no clear phasing for the refurbishment of these historically important buildings, the residential development at the northern part of the site, which has also been criticised, is in outline only, leaving a supermarket of questionable design being the only ‘public benefit’ to be realised with some confidence. Ironically, should Lidl move in it is likely to vacate its present building which includes the frontage of the former Grand Picture Theatre/Ivanhoes, leaving yet another vacant and visible site on the ring road.
Other Planning Issues
We deal as well as we can with other planning applications and enquires that may be of interest or concern, especially those in Conservation Areas (Huddersfield has 11 designated areas) and work affecting listed buildings. Over the past month issues have varied from the conversion of vacant commercial space into small flats to concerns regarding the historic pottery kiln at Salendine Nook.
If you live in a Conservation Area and would like to help us comment on applications that may be of concern, please let us know. We really do need support in these areas of work.
HCS Consultation with the Local Authority
Our varied workload brings us into weekly contact with Kirklees officers, ranging from highway engineers, conservation officers, regeneration officers (especially in response to Blueprint and Heritage Action Zone issues) and other council services.
While we hope to be seen as critical friends with the council and value efforts made by officers to engage HCS in consultations and updates, we have certain issues and concerns, particularly in relation to the following:
Large housing sites (see Examiner article, https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/dont-risk-costly-appeals-turning-20092428).
Before Christmas we responded in detail to the Quality Places consultation about which we have heard no more. It is increasingly worrying that public concerns regarding developments may sometimes be set aside against the need to meet targets set down in the Local Plan.
Conservation Areas (Edgerton in particular) where there is a gradual attrition of key characteristics which, in the case of Edgerton, appear contrary to the CA Appraisal.
Conversions - mainly town centre - to convert commercial premises to residential. On the surface something to support but what we are seeing is a growing number of minimum standard flats which are of questionable quality. However, we know the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, is reviewing Permitted Development Rights PDR rights making it easier for such developments to take place without the need for planning approval.
Vacant listed buildings - St. Andrews Church, Leeds Road; Newsome Mills; Oakes School and (obviously) the former infirmary (see above), and the fact that they are being left to deteriorate, subject to vandalism with developers then claiming conversion is no longer viable. Developers have robust methods for valuing buildings and the risks associated with their conversion and should be subject to stringent enforcement if they are left empty and vulnerable.
Local centres. While the town centre has suffered from decline, some local centres have thrived with an increasing number of shops, eateries and footfall. Each area has its own problems including congestion and problems relating to inadequate infrastructure, parking facilities and active travel. Even though residents are often as concerned about their local centres as they are about the town centre, few plans appear to exist to provide an overview about how future development should be handled.
Practically, we neither have the capacity nor can we hope to engage officers in all these issues immediately but we will attempt to raise some of these issues with key officers over the coming year.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority
From May onwards we will have a Mayor and a "council" (the Combined Authority) for the whole of West Yorkshire. Even though decisions are being made that affect everyone, at the moment there isn't a way for small organisations and active individual people from across the region to get together.
HCS member Andrew Wilson from Same Skies, the regional democracy think tank for West Yorkshire, is organising an event on April 7th, 6pm-7pm, bringing people together to talk, share knowledge and learn about the Mayoral election and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
There is no doubt that Kirklees is already seeking to secure resources from the WYCA, particularly for significant infrastructure projects and HCS would support the need to ensure funds are not prioritised on Leeds alone. However, chasing the money should not result in Kirklees Council disregarding local views and concerns (such as have already surfaced with proposals for the A629 Halifax Road and the impact on Edgerton Conservation Area).
If Same Skies can bring a wide enough range of people together, it might carry some weight in future decisions.
Should you be interested in attending, this is the registration for zoom:
Former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content Andy Hirst has now officially taken on the role of Website Editor and has already helped ensure news, events and other information is being regularly updated. We welcome your comments either to our website or on Twitter @CivicSocietyHD.
Huddersfield Railway Station featured on the Yesterday channel programme, ‘The Architecture the Railways Built’ which has provided a fascinating glimpse into a variety of railway buildings across Britain and abroad. The programme, at 8.00pm on Tuesday March 16, focused on the station clock as well as visiting the art deco Midland Hotel at Morecambe, beautifully restored 10 years ago by Urban Splash.
And, if you are interested in modern architecture, you can join an event, Brutal North: An Exploration of Brutalist Buildings in the North of England at 7.30pm, Thursday 18 March, co-hosted by Wakefield and Bradford Civic Societies and Leeds Civic Trust. Tickets are free and open to all through: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brutal-north-an-exploration-
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
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